How to raise awareness on adult education toward policy-makers?

A bus tour for awareness raising

Swedish Adult Education Association (SAEA)
Sweden

Recently, the SAEA arranged a bus tour for the Committee on Cultural Affairs. We wanted to raise their awareness and show them what adult education is - and what it may help to achieve. The Committee does not have a lot of time for this kind of endeavour and before coming up with the bus tour, we were wondering what to do to target them. In early communication regarding the visit, a committee member mentioned that it might be nice to actually see some activities, instead of yet another meeting room. The bus tour allowed us to visit some local branches of our member-organisations - where actual Folkbildning was carried out as we arrived ("Folkbildning" is the Swedish term for our brand of non-formal adult education)!

We invited all Committee members per post - but we also followed up by phone. They were around 25 persons, from almost all political parties.

We spent one morning together, from breakfast to lunch, going around with the bus and showing them the various activities of our organisations. Of course we spent a lot of time choosing good examples beforehand, in order to show a broad variety of Folkbildning activities. All in all, we visited three of the 10 Swedish study associations. Given more time, we would have visited them all! The study associations presented themselves during the bus tour, before visiting the actual activities. It was all quite intense, but it worked out very well. We managed one visit within the city of Stockholm, and two in surrounding areas.

We started by visiting Sensus, an organization where "multi-religion guides" show items from different religions - and explain what they symbolise. It was a very good ice-breaker! Then we visited ABF, our largest member, where immigrants - mostly from African countries - learn Swedish. Together with the Committee members, we talked with the immigrants about their encounter with the Swedish society. The third place that we visited was Vuxenskolan, who organise activities for people with mental illness. It was a strong experience. Learners explained what it means for them to have a place where they can belong - and meet others that they can identify with. Of course, these three activities are just examples of what the organisations do. Sensus, ABF and Vuxenskolan all have a wide array of activities, as do all of the Swedish study associations. But it was enough to give the committee an idea of what Folkbildning can mean.

What was achieved?

The objective was to give deeper information about the study associations and show some actual activities, in order to maintain the governmental support for Folkbildning.

With the tour, we achieved better personal contacts with the parliamentarians and they of course gained a better understanding of the diversity that the study associations offer. The activity was a success because good examples were shown. There was also a friendly atmosphere during the tour.

We´ve continued to have contact with the Commitee and they are interested in what we´re doing. It´s important that they recognise the work that we are doing, in order to secure future funding. The organisations we visited were very happy for the opportunity to show some of their activities.

The next step in our bus tour campaign is to do the same thing with the Committee for Labour. Next year, before the political elections, we might do the tour again with the Committee on Cultural Affairs.

Key elements of success

We prepared the member-organisations that we visited on the tour, so that they knew beforehand how the tour would work. It was local staff and participants that presented the activities - and that was very good for the authenticity of the tour. We also made sure to show associations with different profiles - in order to show how broad the spectre of Folkbildning can be. One small problem we had was the timeframe for the bus tour. Late morning was good for the committee, but many of the different activities in our member-organisations start later in the day.

In the end, we thought about what was feasible given the tight schedule of the politicians. The hardest part of the entire event was to find a timeslot that worked, something that we managed to do by having contact with the secretariat of the Committee, before sending the invitations. Once we knew that the time and date would work, we sent invitations and followed up with phone calls. Once one of the members agreed to participate it became easier to persuade others.

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